Classmates from the Lincoln Elementary sixth grade class of 1965 unbox items they stowed away in a time capsule 54 years ago at the Royal Oak Schools district office June 13, 2019. Elizabeth Gifford, of Clarkston, holds a newspaper; Marge Tittyung, of Oak Park, holds a pair of shoes; and Cheryl Magnatta Fillmore, of Sterling Heights, enjoys seeing the items.

Classmates from the Lincoln Elementary sixth grade class of 1965 unbox items they stowed away in a time capsule 54 years ago at the Royal Oak Schools district office June 13, 2019. Elizabeth Gifford, of Clarkston, holds a newspaper; Marge Tittyung, of Oak Park, holds a pair of shoes; and Cheryl Magnatta Fillmore, of Sterling Heights, enjoys seeing the items.

File photo by Erin Sanchez


‘Discovery of the Lincoln Time Capsule’ documentary now online

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published November 20, 2020

 Among the contents of a 1965 Lincoln Elementary School time capsule are a yearbook, handwritten letters, magazines, comic books, a TV catalog and a pair of girls shoes.

Among the contents of a 1965 Lincoln Elementary School time capsule are a yearbook, handwritten letters, magazines, comic books, a TV catalog and a pair of girls shoes.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 A yearbook page shows James Honchell’s sixth grade class at Lincoln Elementary School, which created the time capsule in 1965.

A yearbook page shows James Honchell’s sixth grade class at Lincoln Elementary School, which created the time capsule in 1965.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak Schools and WOAK, the district’s student broadcast channel, recently produced a nine minute and 32 second documentary called “Discovery of the Lincoln Time Capsule.”

The documentary follows the trajectory of a time capsule buried by sixth graders from Lincoln Elementary School in Royal Oak 55 years ago. It also documents the reactions of current Royal Oak sixth graders as they sift through the time capsule’s contents.

In May 1965, James Honchell’s class of 34 sixth graders embarked on a project to preserve objects and memories from the era. Students wrote about their homes and families and speculated about the future, carefully wrapped objects in plastic, stenciled “Please open in 2015” on the top, and buried the box outside of the school.

Located on 11 Mile Road, Lincoln Elementary School closed in the late 1990s, then served as an early childhood education center before being demolished. The district no longer owns the property.

Patrick Murphy, Royal Oak Schools operations manager, said, as he understood it, the time capsule was taken from Lincoln Elementary and stored at Addams Elementary after the building was converted to an elementary school.

He said the box sat in the old locker rooms until the district converted the locker rooms to classrooms and moved the box to the district office.

While the exact 50-year mark came and went, the Board of Education felt it was important to make a public display of the opening of the time capsule. Using social media, the district invited all of Honchell’s former sixth grade class to participate in the opening of the time capsule during the Board of Education meeting June 13, 2019.

Of the 34 students, four were able to make it to the June 13 Board of Education meeting: Marge Tittyung, of Oak Park; Cheryl Magnatta Fillmore, of Sterling Heights; Elizabeth Gifford, of Clarkston; and Dave Falkenburg, of Clarkston. Others sent their regards.

Murphy used a hammer and chisel to pry open the lid of the box, unleashing a musty aroma, as the classmates gathered around the box. They quickly found their photos in a class yearbook.

Items inside the time capsule included comics, magazines, a TV catalog, medicine, a flashlight, a pair of girls shoes, silverware, newspapers, hand-drawn pictures and floor plans of students’ homes, and handwritten letters describing students’ lives.

In one letter, a student speculated that the medical field would find cures for more diseases and that humans would live on different planets in 50 years.

During the June 13, 2019, board meeting, Gifford said the class had Honchell as a teacher for two years, for both the fifth and sixth grades, which created “a very strong connection between him and his students. I remember how much fun it was learning in his class, and I especially remember the contest he had to design his new patio.”

Looking at the items displayed on the table last summer, Gifford said she felt a tinge of melancholy.

“This was us 54 years ago,” she said. “Everything is possible when you’re 11.”

Falkenburg said Honchell was his favorite teacher of all time.

Gifford said Honchell went on to earn a doctorate from Michigan State University and served as an administrator for the Jackson County Intermediate School District. Those gathered at the opening of the time capsule said they believed he died recently.

“Discovery of the Lincoln Time Capsule” premiered on WOAK — channel 19 on Comcast and channel 15 on WOW — on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020.

Kurt Bakker, administrator of the Lincoln Elementary alumni Facebook group, said in the documentary that he vividly remembers burying the time capsule.

“Sadly, after the school closed, a lot of documentation — pictures and things like that — just weren’t available to share,” Bakker said. “We’ve been really kind of struggling to find those class pictures and things like that, and I’m hoping that an interview like this will help people go through the shoe box, shall we say, and look for some memories.”

He said the school means a lot to him and the community.

“We did a lot of things. It was a very active community school,” Bakker said. “A big part of it is missing after it’s gone, to be honest with you. It was a lot of fun.”

To find the alumni group, visit facebook.com and search for “Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, Royal Oak, MI.”

Modern sixth graders were shocked that the price of a meal, specifically the shrimp salad plate, on a local country club’s menu was 95 cents. According to the documentary, the average cost of a restaurant meal in 1965 was $1, and the average cost of a restaurant meal in 2020 is $13.

When asked what they would include in a time capsule, modern students said stuffed animals in case future technology eliminated the market for physical toys; a modern camera in case future cameras floated in the sky and “whenever you wanted a picture, you could just take it”; a math book in case in the future students could “take a pill to do math”; novels by authors such as Stephen King; and soccer shoes.

Items from the time capsule are on display in cases at the district office, located at 800 DeVillen Ave., near Rochester and 13 Mile roads. Royal Oak Schools asks that those with memories or who know anything about the time capsule email communications@royaloakschools.org.

For more information, visit royaloakschools.org or call (248) 435-8400.

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